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Lori Lightfoot’s Feud with Chicago teachers is driving thousands of students out of Limbo


Chicago public school students remained out of classrooms on Friday due to a bitter standoff between the city’s teachers union and the mayor. Lori Lightfoot extended to the third day. The situation has become acrimonious and uncertain, with the children and families caught in the midst of another feud between the Lightfoot administration and CTU. But adding to the frustration was the fact that there was no immediate solution as of Friday, leaving the third-largest school district in the nation in limbo ahead of the next school week. “I feel left out,” said a parent in the city’s southwestern Pilsen neighborhood told Chalkbeat Chicago earlier this week.

The latest clash between Lightfoot and CTU comes as COVID cases in Chicago and across the country are on the rise due to the more contagious, though apparently milder, variant of Omicron. CTU says current pandemic conditions have made face-to-face learning not safe, and nearly three-quarters of its members as of late Tuesday voted to stay in the classroom until January 18 or until the city’s test-positive rate drops below 10 percent. hundred. (As of Friday, Chicago’s positivity rate is 22.7 percent.) The union had offered to return to distance learning until then, but Chicago Public Schools abruptly canceled classes on Wednesday, just days after students returned from winter break, with Lightfoot call the action of CTU “Unlawful, Unilateral Strike” and city officials — including the public health commissioner Allison Arwady—Schools remain safe despite high community spread of COVID, describing the current threat to children and staff as similar to past flu seasons.

Arwady speak this week. “I’m really worried that we’re pretending like it’s February 2020, the start of all this.”

In some ways, this rift is part of a long-standing feud between Lightfoot and the union, who have been at war for less than six months as mayor in 2019 over pay, class sizes and other benefits. another problem during a two-week teachers’ strike. In fiery comments visited the WBEZ on Wednesday, Lightfoot accused CTU of operating in good faith and “moving the milestone,” expressing concern that the union could continue to cease work beyond January 18. “What they believe is enforcement. raw political power,” she said. Director of CTU Jesse Sharkey, Meanwhile, maintain that “going into school puts us at risk, putting our students and families at risk of coronavirus,” and is calling on CPS to implement more safety measures. CTU has named the deadlock “#LoriLockout.”

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However, aside from the specific dynamics of Chicago politics, the stalemate looks like a lot of debate going on across America as the country enters the third year of the pandemic. COVID has put a huge strain on students, parents, and educators. But the current stage of the pandemic has added new confusion to the mix: Omicron has fueled an increase in cases and hospitalizations, including among children. But the data shows variation tend to cause milder illness compared with previous iterations of the coronavirus in adults and children, and vaccination has significantly reduced the risk of severe COVID-19 for most people who have received vaccines and vaccines. The Chicago Tribune, citing district statistics from CPS, where approximately 330,000 students are enrolled, note that “more than half of the district’s students ages 12 to 17 and nearly 12% of students ages 5 to 11 are fully immunized,” along with 91% of school staff.

As Arwady suggested, we are not living in the early days of a pandemic, although the levels of risk — and risk tolerance — vary between individuals. Furthermore, distance learning in child education and mental health is in the spotlight, and federal leaders have made it a priority to maintain face-to-face learning. “The President has been very clear that he wants these schools to stay open,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday, “including in Chicago.” But there have been concerns — not just among educators, but parents and students alike — that schools don’t have the resources to do it safely.

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